The sin of Israel which led to the defeat at Ai was threefold:
1. The sin of Achan was really the sin of Israel—v. 11.
2. The decision to send only a few men because the city was small (v. 3) indicated a sinful dependence on human strength rather than upon God.
3. There is no record of an communication with God for direction in taking Ai, as in the case of Jericho (6:1-5).
The sin of Achan and its results teach us the great truth of the “oneness” of God’s people.
Achan had sinned, but Israel is accused of the sin—v. 11.
Compare 1 Corinthians 5:17—“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
The story of the conquests of Israel is a story of success. Now the tables have turned…Israel is in full retreat. 36 men have been slain…Joshua us lying on his face before the Lord…the elders are with him there—v. 6.
The possibility of defeat had never crossed Joshua’s mind. This was a serious situation. Joshua could foresee the result of this defeat, the inhabitants of the land would join together and surround them and kill them.
The Cause of Defeat
This was the only defeat that Israel suffered in their conquest of the land.
The cause of the defeat was threefold.
Ai was only a small city, but few—v. 3.
This fact and also the ruins of Jericho in the background caused them to be self-reliant. Don’t send up the whole army, two or three thousand will do—v. 3. This line of action was based on the supposition that Israel had captured Jericho.
Actually all they had done was to walk around the walls and then shout at the appropriate time. It was God who had taken the city. The smoking ruins of Jericho was not a testimony to the strength of Israel, but was a testimony to the power of God Himself.
Now please observe when they were defeated. Their defeat came in the wake of victory. We are more vulnerable at this time than any other. At such times our pride takes over, we glory in our achievements, we become self-confident, this attitude brings defeat.
The greatest lesson that a child of God can learn is that “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing” and that “when I am weak then I am strong.”
2. Neglect of communication with God.
v. 2—Joshua sent men to Ai. Poor Joshua, he was carried away with the victory at Jericho, so he made immediate plans for the capture of the next objective. But in the flush of victory and in the excitement of conquest he forgot one thing. He did not ask God what His will was.
The result was abject defeat. The moral of this is if you pray in time of victory, you will never have to plead in time of defeat.
Read 7:11—“Israel has sinned…for they have taken the accursed thing.”
In the R.V. an important change is made here. It says “devoted thing”, i.e., something set apart for God.
Read now 6:18-19 to see what the devoted thing was. The silver and gold, the vessels of bronze and iron were the Lords. So then Achan actually stole from the Lord (see Malachi 3). Because he sinned in this way the whole nation suffered. Cp. Miriam’s sin here, and note the results.
May each of us grasp the truth here. As members of the local fellowship, and as being one in Christ, when one person steps out of the line of God’s will, the entire body suffers. The whole church is affected.
When a child of God gets cold at heart there is a lowering of temperature of the whole body, which has an adverse affect on the spirituality of the whole.
What was it that brought victory at Ai?
The sin was brought out into the open. Describe the sifting process.
7:14—Brought according to tribes, families, households, man by man.
7:16—the tribes were brought before the Lord. Judah was taken.
7:17—the family of the Zerahites was taken man by man.
7:18—Achan was taken.
7:19—“Tell me what you have done; hide it not from me.”
7:20—“Achan said, I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel.”
7:21—I saw, I coveted, I took. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. See 1 John 2:16. This was also the sin of Eve.
This was not easy for Joshua. Achan and his family were taken and stoned. Before blessing and victory could come to Israel, the evil and sin had to be:
c. The offender had to be dealt with
As it was then so it is today, sin in all shapes and forms must be eradicated from the church if blessing and progress is to be enjoyed.
Notice now the different tone of chapter 8.
“And the Lord said unto Joshua.”
The first 29 verses of this chapter describe the conquest and fall of Ai under the guidance of God. Success came when sin was dealt with, communication was restored with God, and when there was obedience to God’s word.
Spiritual success is assured hen we:
1. Engage in prayer.
2. Read the Word.
3. Confess our sins.
4. Obey the will of God.
Psalm 40:8—“I delight to do Thy will O my God.”
1 John 2:17—“For he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”